When I was growing up, Mother’s Day celebrations always took place at my great uncle David’s house. We’d sit at a big round table, eating heavily buttered Lender's bagels. The conversation was often over my head, which didn't really matter because I’d escape as soon as possible to play my uncle's ancient Frogger, pretty much the only video game I've ever played in my life.
This year, I find myself looking back on that time in black-and-white, so unattainable that I almost can’t believe it ever happened. I’d love to spend Mother’s Day sitting around the table with my family and eating wonderfully crappy bagels. But this year I’m in quarantine in Brooklyn, with my mom in Boston and my family spread out all over the country. Many of you, I’m sure, are feeling the same way, longing for the chance to hang with your mom but unable to do so.
It's also likely that there are those of you who might be quarantined with your mom and wishing you could have a little more distance. So this year, whether you’re 100 miles or 100 paces apart, we have a few gifts in mind to make this difficult period in history a little more celebratory and comforting.
A few tips: If you’re in quarantine with your mom, try using this new equipment or enjoying these tasty snacks together. And if you’re apart, have a Zoom session to experiment in the kitchen with each other. Of course, it’s possible your mom relishes her time in the kitchen because it’s the only moment of alone time she gets in the day. So, in that case, give your gift. Then give the woman some privacy.
For Cooking and Baking
A new piece of cooking equipment is a nice way to help Mom expand her repertoire. This beautiful tagine makes for an impressive cooking vessel and serving dish. Pair it with a printed-out (dare I say, laminated?) recipe for a flavorful North African stew for cozy nights in.
This particular tagine, which is handmade in Tunisia, comes in a few different colors, so you can select whichever one suits your mom's preferred color palette. Better yet, pick one to match her kitchen, and she can keep it on display all year long.
Whether it's burned, gloopy, dry, or just plain glued to the pan, a bad batch of rice is a deeply disappointing experience. But a good rice cooker takes all guesswork out of the equation. The Cuckoo model shown here is our favorite for cooks who regularly purchase and eat lots of different rice varieties (you can see our other picks in our full rice cooker review). If that's your mom, she'll enjoy all of the custom presets the Cuckoo has to offer. What's more, this machine has a small footprint, which will be appreciated by apartment and house moms alike.
Pick one of these up for her, and save her from disappointing-rice hell for the true gift that keeps on giving.
Maybe Mom's a smoothie person, or maybe she's into milling her own flour (what with flour being out of stock these days, maybe we should all do this). For that, she'll need a kick-ass blender. Our exhaustive testing of high-powered blending lands on the Vitamix as a go-to for blasting through everything from wheat berries to fibrous kale.
Quality Wooden Cutting Board
Like the Vitamix, a quality wooden cutting board is an investment piece. While the price may be high, if you take care of this board, it will take care of you—and your knives.
For a really nice board, we look to The BoardSmith, a small, family-run company that makes all its boards by hand. Its maple end-grain board is thick, solid, and long-lasting (Daniel's been using his for years!). It comes in a few different sizes and offers some customizations like a juice groove and feet.
If you're worried about your mom handling the upkeep, we've got her covered. Just print out our cheat sheet for cutting board maintenance, and she'll be good to go.
Like my mom, maybe yours has been using the same knives for years. To remedy that dull situation, grab her a new chef’s knife. You can go Japanese or Western—Western blades tend to be heavier and more curved than their Japanese counterparts—but these two took home the top prizes in our chef's knife review—out of a whopping 27 candidates! They'll revitalize your mom's knife skills and make slicing and dicing much safer.
Mortar and Pestle
If she's all set on knives, I'd recommend a mortar and pestle. There's a wide variety of styles and use cases. Sure, they're ideal for grinding up sauces and pestos, but no matter what style you opt for, they're guaranteed to help Mom work out some stress and anxiety, too.
There’s lots to get for your mom if she’s into baking. If she already has the essentials, treat her to some decorative tools like piping tips. These large ones are perfect for piping out creamy Oreo filling and dollops of chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream onto cakes. The set comes with several different shapes like swirls and stars, so she can get as creative as she'd like.
Marble Pastry Slab
This marble pastry slab isn't just a pretty base. It's a smooth and cool surface for rolling out buttery pie crusts, laminating dough, and even tempering chocolate. It's also good-looking enough to act as a serving platter for all those baked goods. And what mom doesn't love a multitasker?
If your mom is just starting out on her baking adventures, she needs a good scale. We've said it time and again, but measuring cups aren't accurate enough on their own. Sure, she should have some, but a scale is indispensable if she's going to produce beautiful breads, pastries, and treats.
We especially love this pull-out scale from OXO because it'll show measurements even if there's a big bowl on top of it. And lord knows we're into batch-baking right now. The bigger the bowl, the better.
This Staub baking dish is another multitasker that Mom will love. The "splurge winner" for our baking and casserole dish review, it's nice and heavy, it's oven-safe at up to a whopping 575°F (300°C), and with excellent heat retention, it'll keep what she's made hot longer than the average baking dish. With a four-quart capacity, it's large enough to hold not just brownies but roasts and big, holiday-friendly casseroles.
Maybe instead of wrapping this one, make a huge Hasselback potato gratin, serve it, and tell her it's all for her.
Maybe now's the time to get Mom into pizza-making. (That’s what’s happening to us, anyway.) For better, faster pizza at home, pick her up a Baking Steel to get that crust extra-crispy. Upon trying his own, Kenji noticed that his New York–style pizza dough even got those traditional oven-charred spots and a super-crisp bottom that's hard to achieve, even with a pizza stone.
The Baking Steel will also prove useful if Mom is into baking bread, since it can measurably improve the performance of her oven by adding thermal mass. This means it'll keep her oven hotter, ensuring those loaves get a full rise.
In layman's terms, a Baking Steel is a piece of kitchen badassery that anyone would love. Plus, it's too heavy to return, so she'll keep it forever no matter what.
KitchenAid Pasta Roller Set
For homemade pasta and ramen noodles as good (if not better) than what you'll find at restaurants, pick up a KitchenAid pasta roller that will attach right to her mixer. You can even print out our exhaustive walk-through of how to make fresh pasta from scratch. It’s more reliable than anyone else in the family.
A Supportive Floor Mat
It might not seem critical, but having a supportive mat on the kitchen floor can make cooking (and dish-washing) much more comfortable for cooks of any age. These GelPro mats are nice and squishy, providing good support for feet and knees. Maybe it's not glamorous, but it's a gift she'll appreciate after a long day in the kitchen.
A Chic Apron
This linen apron from Etsy is as functional as it is good-looking. It has a big pocket for thermometers and tongs, and it doesn't have annoying ties, which is perhaps its greatest appeal. Mom can just slip it on and get cooking.
For the Home
It’s an indisputable fact that the worst part of cooking is cleaning. That’s why this year we’ve added a good vacuum to the list. And not just any vacuum, but one that requires almost zero energy from your mom. It’s an iRobot Roomba. Plug this baby in, turn it on, and let it go. It’ll pick up all of those stray crumbs in the kitchen and living room. And if your mom is anything like me, she’ll name her robot vacuum, start to talk to it, and by the end of quarantine, she’ll have made a new, very helpful friend.
While mom is sitting back and relaxing, letting the Roomba do the work, make sure she has everything she needs for a nice self-care session. That should start with a nice glass of wine. (Yes, the wine should be nice, but the glass should be, too!) These reasonably priced (for crystal) glasses from Riedel did exceptionally well in our tests, impressing professional sommeliers (and yes, the casual wine-drinkers among us) with their ability to capture the aroma of red, white, and bubbly wines.
Pair that glass of wine with a nice candle, and you'll really be in business. For candle-gifting these days, I've been using Otherland, a company founded by an old high school friend of mine. The candles smell wonderful, they're handmade (and free of parabens and chemicals), and the packaging looks like a gift unto itself.
Breville Espresso Machine
If your mom is an espresso drinker, help her sip in style with a fancy espresso machine. This is actually the machine we use in our office (not that we've been there in what feels like an eternity). It produces beautiful espresso, is easy to use, and can even whip up frothy milk! Sure, it costs a whole lot, but Mom's worth it.
Jono Pandolfi Espresso Cup
So maybe you won't be splurging on that espresso machine, but you can still help her sip in style with a Jono Pandolfi espresso cup. These beautiful little cups are all handmade. Plus, they're dishwasher-safe, which as far as I can tell, is the best gift anyone could ask for.
Parlor Coffee Subscription
You could also treat your coffee-loving mom to a subscription from Parlor Coffee and support a small business in the process. They source their beans from all over the world, offering single blends and origins, plus weekly and monthly shipping.
Better yet, grab yourself a subscription as well, especially if it's been hard finding coffee at the grocery store.
Powerful Coffee Grinder
If you're going to treat Mom to good coffee, make sure she has a good grinder to match. Baratza's Virtuoso coffee grinder was a favorite in our review. The conical burr produces a wide range of grind sizes, the machine is solid (made from both metal and plastic), and the customer service is excellent, which is important when your caffeine intake is on the line.
For Eating: The Sweet Edition
Our new features editor, Daniela, says that while pastry chef's Susanna Yoon's chocolates are some of the best in the country, her soft caramels are the sleeper hit. They come in rich flavors like raspberry, brown butter macadamia nut, sea salt, and salted peanut, and they're available in 10- and 20-piece gift packs. Each luscious little caramel is individually wrapped in cellophane paper for a delicious little treat far more elegant and elevated than any supermarket brand.
If you do want to go the chocolate route, pick up some Raaka chocolate bars. This trio pack comes with wild flavors like pink sea salt and bourbon cask–aged. What's more, the wrappers are a piece of art themselves. They'll make Mom's chocolate break all the more glorious and exciting.
Real-Deal Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
We've long championed this chocolate-hazelnut spread from our friends over at Gustiamo. It's rich, luscious, and might just ruin the original. Is that a bad thing? Perhaps. But once Mom's hooked, you can make sending her a jar of Gustiamo's concoction a regular thing. Birthdays, holidays—send a jar, and you'll be all set.
This Iranian toffee from Persian Basket is flavored with saffron and cardamom. It's nice and sweet, just like English toffee, and it's topped with toasty pistachios. The buttery hunks are packaged in a lovely, colorful box—and the website says the toffee pairs well with wine. No mom could say no to that.
Our founder, Ed, is constantly praising Gustiamo’s pistachio spread (which we hope he shares with his wife when he has it!). While it’s a pricey everyday purchase, this pistachio spread makes for a very special gift, made with Italian pistachios and little else.
While you could obviously just dive in with a spoon, this rich treat would also taste excellent spread over your morning toast, smothered on a sticky bun, or drizzled over ice cream.
Frog Hollow Citrus Basket
I suppose citrus would fall under the sweet category as well. If Mom always has lemon in her water or is constantly digging into grapefruits, get her a gift box from Frog Hollow Citrus. This farm has been practicing regenerative agriculture since your mom was in her early days. Giving her one of its boxes packed with citrus is an excellent way to send a little sunshine even in the depths of quarantine doldrums.
Of course, if she prefers that citrus on her toast, then add some bergamot marmalade to her Gustiamo order. For the uninitiated, bergamot is a citrus fruit that's sort of a cross between bitter oranges and lemons. In other words, the perfect pairing to hot biscuits and English muffins.
For Eating: The Savory Stuff
A Great Spice Mix
My love for this particular spice mix is undying. Filled with pink Himalayan sea salt, grains of paradise, shallots, garlic, and more, the World's Fair Barbecue Rub is versatile and delicious. It transforms everything it touches, from eggs to steak to tomato sauce. Whenever I feel like a dish is just a little bit bland, I add a few sprinkles, and it turns the whole thing right around. Starting at $6.99, a bag or glass jar of this mix from The Spice House is an excellent, affordable, and useful gift for Mom. (She's over tchotchkes and so are we.)
A Spice Set
I happen to know some moms whose pantry is full of old spices that have basically lost all of their flavor and are now just dust particles. If this is your mom, consider getting her a new set of spices to revitalize her collection. We're particularly enamored with this gift set from Burlap & Barrel, which has all of the essentials. As Daniel puts it, these spices are not just fresher than what you'll find elsewhere, but they're "er-er," which is his way of saying that they're "better in every way from the ho-hum stuff on supermarket shelves." If that isn't an endorsement, then I don't know what is.
Málà is that wonderful flavor you taste and feel when you're eating Sichuan cuisine. And that hot and numbing sensation comes from Sichuan peppercorns. If you want the good stuff, look to Mala Market, a small company that imports all of its ingredients straight from China. Their Sichuan peppercorns will give your chili crisp more buzz—and will be your mom's gateway into the wide world of Sichuan cooking.
Whether your mom has a green thumb or a black thumb, she'll revel in an AeroGarden. Especially during this time of quarantine and limited grocery trips, having an AeroGarden is not only satisfying but useful. Without much effort at all, your mom could have all the herbs she could ever want growing just about anywhere in the house, regardless of her natural-light situation.
Lots of Pasta
We cannot get enough pasta here at Serious Eats. (Did you even see Starch Madness or our pasta merch?) While we're perfectly happy eating pasta from supermarket brands, sometimes we like to splurge, and the splurge is almost always at Gustiamo, which imports Faella dried pasta from Italy. During Covid times, Gustiamo is offering five-pound bags of certain shapes, including penne. While mom is trying to stay home, there's probably nothing better to gift her than a gigantic bag of pasta. The fact that it's from Italy and is really, really delicious? Well, that's just icing on the pasta cake.
Meat From D'Artagnan
Now it’s time to talk meat. Our culinary team has long looked to D’Artagnan for specialty meats, like porcelet collar and duck. And when shelves at grocery stores are bare and you want to fill your freezer, D'Artagnan is a great place to look. While the steaks and specialty meats can be pricey, I'd look to the ground beef as a gift. Sure, it's not sexy, but wait, what am I talking about? A good burger is definitely sexy.
If you're quarantined with Mom and you decide to go the duck route, you're in luck. We have all sorts of recipes from our duckstravaganza. Maybe go for a group project and dry-age your duck for the best duck breast either of you will have ever had.
You’ve also likely seen us talking a lot about ‘nduja lately. Why? It’s an affordable pantry ingredient that can amp up all sorts of dishes, from casual beans and greens to mac and cheese and even eggs. Better still, ‘nduja lasts for ages in the fridge, so Mom can take a scoop whenever the mood strikes.